October 23, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: Nick Bollettieri

Tennis coach, businessman, motivational speaker, age 75

Amy Keller | 3/1/2007


Nick Bollettieri. Photo: Mark Wemple

A coach has to be a jack of trades. Teaching the game of tennis is basically easy, but successful coaches do much more than just teach the game.

Today you have to know their athletic background, their parents' backgrounds, introverts, extroverts, how are they in school, how strong are they, do they practice well and play poorly, do they practice poorly and play well, their realistic goals, their support team, their financial assistance. I mean it's an awful lot of things. Of course, to be a pro today is tough as hell.

Went to college. Went into the service. Paratroopers and the Rangers. Went into law school for a year. Then I began seriously in tennis in 1956. I knew very little about the game, and I built it from there. I always knew how to take advantage of opportunity.
Agassi said an interesting thing to me. He said, 'Do you ever listen to anybody?' And I said basically, 'no.' This is when he was 14 going on 15. He said, 'If you'd listen, you'd be surprised at what you'd learn.'

I was director of tennis for all the Rockefeller hotels in the winters for 17 years, and then in the summers I was family tennis coach, with Chi Chi Rodriguez doing the golf. I did the tennis at the Rockefellers' home in the Hudson Valley in Tarrytown, N.Y., and then I decided to get into camps -- summer camps. We actually were one of the very first that ever did it in America, specialty camps.

When I left Dorado Beach after 17 years, I was in Fort Lauderdale and I said, 'Gee, we've got to get a job.' And I said that to Julio Moros, who's still with me. He's been with me 35 years. My good friend Mike DePalmer Sr. lived here in Bradenton, and I had been working with his younger daughter a little bit, and he said, 'Why don't you come over here?'

I think I used to be able to (spot a prodigy) almost immediately, but now there's so many good ones around the world you have to be much more cautious now before you say, 'I have another winner.' But I can sort of tell certain things after doing it so many times, that I still have a feeling of what might turn out to be a good thing.

I met Dr. (Murray) Klauber, 'Murf' Klauber, who was the manager and one of the owners of the Colony Beach &
Tennis Resort. He was rather crazy, but a very dedicated guy, and he loves sports and felt that the guests need to have something special. So he let me begin my academy there with 10 local students and one out-of-town student, Ann White from West Virginia. Pretty soon after two or three years, we got so busy there was no room for the hotel guests.

I'm the type of guy that goes to work about 10 after 4, a quarter after 4 a.m. I'm in the gym for an hour. I teach for approximately 10 to 11 hours per day, work on e-mails and do a lot of things at night. Just stay up. It's what I have to do.

My good friend Louis Marx and Dan Lufkin lent me some money to buy a motel and a tennis club located on 75th Street in a little motel located on Manatee Avenue. At this time, the academy began making noise, and we got good students.

We got Jimmy Arias from Buffalo. Then we got Aaron Krickstein. Then we got Carling Bassett. So we were
beginning to have huge success.

Back in 1987, I had 32 players in the main draw of the U.S. Open from the academy, all on scholarship, and then I sort of gave the world away and didn't take care of the books. IMG came along and bought the place, I think in 1987 or '88.

My life is built around excitement. It's very tough for me to follow direction. That's probably why I had to sell my company because if I had good management, I probably wouldn't have had to.

We went to golf. Then we went to soccer. Then we went to basketball. We went to baseball. The New York Times said, at one time, we're the "sports city" of the entire world.

I have a great wife now who actually manages my career, which makes it very much easier for me because I'm sort
of a guy who will say I'll do things for you and I don't have the time.

I spent many years on the road with Agassi and Seles and Kournikova, and now I spend more time with just a lot of
students. Just accepted to do several things in different parts of the world. A huge project being done in France, and we're doing something for India, (and) a big project in Dubai.

I think today, 95% of all young tennis players, boys and girls, should go to college for a couple years. The circuit is too difficult, too expensive, and to give up an education not knowing that you definitely are going to be a top pro is
definitely taking a hell of a chance.

I love playing golf and body surfing and skiing. The teaching of tennis I love. I love the excitement. But I'd rather play golf.

*Online Exclusive: Read the full text of Florida Trend's interview with the sports icon, including his thoughts on Maria Sharapova at EXTRA.floridaTrend.com.

Tags: Florida Icon

In case you missed it:

Digital Access

DIRECT DIGITAL ACCESS
Add digital to your current subscription, purchase a single ditgital issue, or start a new subscription to Florida Trend.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
An overview of the features and articles in this month's issue of Florida Trend.

ACCESS THIS ISSUE »

Florida Business News

Florida Trend Video Pick

Gasoline Prices: Why Are They Going Down Now?
Gasoline Prices: Why Are They Going Down Now?

Gasoline prices in the U.S. are the lowest they've been in four years. Why?

Earlier Videos | Viewpoints@FloridaTrend

Ballot Box

Jeb Bush has said he'd accept tax increases as long as they are paired with federal spending cuts. This stance runs counter to conservatives who oppose tax hikes. Is Bush right?

  • Yes - raising taxes should be considered
  • No - there's enough money, need to manage it better

See Results

Ballot Box
Subscribe